Carpetbaggers [1964]

The Carpetbaggers is the kind of trash classic most people are too embarrassed to admit they actually enjoy. But this Harold Robbins adaptation is so cheerfully vulgar, it's hard not to have a good time--especially given the thinly veiled portrait of Howard Hughes at its center. George Peppard plays the heel-hero, who founds an airline company in the 1920s and buys a movie studio in the 1930s, crushing friends and mistresses along the way. The high cheese factor is aided by the good-time cast: Carroll Baker as Peppard's hot stepmom, Bob Cummings (quite funny) as a cynical agent, and Elizabeth Ashley, who married Peppard, in her debut--uncharacteristically, as a good girl. The sad note is Alan Ladd, looking and sounding very end-of-the-line in his final role, as a man's man cowboy star. Elmer Bernstein's swaggering score helps goose the action along, but the rest is thick melodrama indeed. --Robert Horton

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